Somerville Council Addresses Concerns Over Proposed Gun Store Near Elementary School

At the latest Somerville Borough Council meeting, members faced concerns from residents regarding the proposed opening of a gun store near a local school, stirring a debate over community safety and zoning laws. The public comment period saw residents advocating for changes to protect children and address traffic safety near schools. The meeting also recognized the tragic passing of Mary Rose Fely with a moment of silence, followed by the promotion of three police personnel.

The mayor called attention to a resolution for a zoning review related to firearms and firearm stores in the borough, a topic that was highlighted due to a civil action served upon the borough concerning a specific firearm store. The mayor urged residents to take part in the zoning review process to avoid exclusionary zoning practices and to delineate specific zones for allowable uses. The council then proceeded with the referral to the planning board for this zoning review.

The zoning review for firearms and related civil action became a point of contention during the public comment period. Residents expressed their unease about the planned gun store’s location, particularly its proximity to an elementary school. The potential impacts on children’s mental health and the increased risk of robberies in the area were concerns. One resident emphasized that children are an irreplaceable resource and urged the council to establish a 1,000-foot gun-free school zone and to require businesses to provide proof of liability insurance. Others called for zoning restrictions to prevent future gun shops from opening in sensitive areas, citing Piscataway’s zoning laws as a potential model.

Traffic safety near schools was also a priority for residents, with calls for immediate action to address dangerous conditions near a middle school. The sentiments expressed during the public comments were a clear indicator of the community’s prioritization of safety and the well-being of its children.

The council also focused on the proposed solar project for the Somerville landfill. Colin Driver provided an update on the project, detailing the landfill’s history, the involvement with New Jersey Transit, and the selection of CS Energy for the solar project. He discussed the challenges posed by changes in the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) guidelines and the benefits of community solar, such as discounted electricity for low and moderate-income households. The council debated government processes’ impact on the project’s progress, emphasizing the importance of regulatory alignment.

Ordinances introduced during the meeting included an amendment to the cost for stickers and an override to exceed the 2024 Municipal budget appropriation limits. A public inquiry led Council Member Kevin to clarify the definition of bulk items, with the council approving the ordinances after due consideration.

Furthermore, the council detailed the state Department of Community Affairs’ spending cap, explaining the potential banking of surplus funds for the next year’s budget. New ordinances were adopted, amending marriage and civil union ceremony fees, establishing a new bus stop, reducing meter parking time on Veterans Memorial Drive East, and legalizing gaming on Sundays. Salary ranges for borough employees were also discussed.

The meeting commenced with Mayor Brian Gallagher leading a moment of silence for the community’s loss of Mary Rose Fely, a tribute to her impact on the community. Following this somber opening, the council shifted to the promotion of three police officers. Sergeant Darren Dama was promoted to Lieutenant, Officer Jason Lipik to Sergeant, and Officer Josiah Suloff to Sergeant, each receiving unanimous approval. Their oaths of office were administered accordingly.

The council addressed ongoing community projects and initiatives, including updates on the Downtown C Alliance’s annual meeting, the Office of Emergency Management’s recent storm debrief, and the Public Library’s increased community engagement and successful programs. Mayor Gallagher encouraged resident participation in volunteer opportunities, particularly in new committees focused on infrastructure, public safety, seniors, and veterans.

The council took on several consent resolutions, including the approval of a performance bonds refund, a grant application for spotted lantern fly control, and the disposal of vehicles as scrap.

Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.

Brian Gallagher
City Council Officials:
Roger Vroom, Theresa Bonner, Glen Denys, Thompson Mitchell, RanD Pitts, Gina Stravic

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